Saturday, 27 May 2006

'In the beginning was sound' -- Barenboim's Reith lectures. 'Brilliant!'

The internet is a wonderful thing. Not only does it throw up the absurd, the titillating and the combative, lurking within it also are real nuggets of pure genius. This year's BBC Reith Lectures by brilliant conductor Daniel Barenboim is such a nugget.

If you're at all interested in music, then you should be overwhelmed by this series of five fascinating lectures from an inspirational man who knows music inside out -- lectures that you can see on the net in pristine video, or hear in pure MP3, or just read, if you wish, without the benefit of the glorious music he uses to illustrate his points.

Rather than summarise myself what he says, I'll let him tell you himself:
I will ... attempt the impossible and maybe try and draw some connection between the inexpressible content of music and, maybe, the inexpressible content of life.

In Chicago [Lecture 2] I will be trying to rescue "the neglected sense" - the ear - and launch a campaign against muzak. [Boy, did that excite some controversy.]

In Berlin [Lecture 3]
I will argue that we have lost the ability to make value judgements about public standards - all because of political correctness and bad education.

In Ramallah [Lecture 4] I will speak about the ability of music to integrate, and how it is that a musician is by the sheer nature of his profession in many ways, an integrating figure. If a musician is unable to integrate rhythm, melody, harmony, volume, speed, he cannot make music.

And to end in Jerusalem [Lecture 5], I will try to explain what to me is a very major difference between power and strength - something which I learned very precisely from music, that if you attack a chord with more power than you are going to sustain it, it has no strength. So there we are at the first, if you want, connection between the inexpressible content of music and in many ways the inexpressible content of life...

Of course, appropriate moment to quote Neitszche, who said that life without music would be a mistake.
And now we come to the first question - why? Why is music so important? Why is music something more than something very agreeable or exciting to listen to? Something that, through its sheer power, and eloquence, gives us formidable weapons to forget our existence and the chores of daily life...
Why indeed? Listen up and learn. I certainly have.

UPDATE: Whoops. Links fixed.

LINKS: In the beginning was sound, Reith Lectures 2006 - BBC Radio 4
Barenboim hits out at 'sound of muzak' - BBC News

TAGS: Music, Heroes, Science


  1. Hi Peter,

    These are outstanding. Yes, pure genius - so simple. Thanks for putting them up.

    - Sam

  2. Oops that wans't meant to be anonymous.

    - Sam

  3. Yes, very profound lectures. Thanks for putting these links up PC!


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.